12:55pm Wednesday 18th June 2014
CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to open a coal mine near a school hope to reclaim the area with a 'history trail' building on the success of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site.
The trail would be an alternative to proposals submitted by coal company Glamorgan Power to open a quarry 120 metres from Ysgol Bryn Onnen in Varteg.
Campaigners fear the proposed mine could harm the health of pupils and elderly residents in the village.
Welsh minister Carl Sargeant turned down the opencast mine plans last year but a new application could be submitted after the company’s agents made a fresh request for information via an environmental assessment with Torfaen council.
The history trail would take visitors past closed down collieries and railways, giving them new insights into the industrial revolution, and - it is hoped - build on the success of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site.
To become a reality, the site owned by Glamorgan Power would have to be reclaimed through a compulsory purchase order.
Tony Kinsella, of the No Opencast at Varteg Hill Group, said: “We are delighted that at last an alternative for the regeneration of Varteg Hill is being proposed that will ensure the site is regenerated for social amenity and benefit our community, without harming our health and well-being.
“It will have long-term sustainability and the potential to bring tourism to the area."
In addition to a history trail, the site would be further enhanced with a nature reserve, according to draft proposals put forward by the Varteg Hill History Society.
The campaign is building momentum with Assembly Member Llyr Gruffydd visiting the site last week to speak with concerned parties.
Boydd Hackley-Green, the chairman of governors at Ysgol Bryn Onnen, indicated the compulsory purchase order could be made by a public body such as Cadw or Torfaen council.
Harmers, the agents acting on behalf of Glamorgan Power, were unavailable for comment yesterday [June 17].
Mr Hackley-Green, 35, said: “This plan would mean the protection of the school environment and community and true commitment to developing the South Wales Valleys rather than their destruction.”
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